Friday, May 23, 2014

Placeholder - Charmaine Cadeau (Brick Books)

Today's book of poetry:
Placeholder.  Charmaine Cadeau.  Brick Books.  London, Ontario.  2013.

Charmaine Cadeau is one of those "slow-down" poets.  These are the poets where subtle craft and sublime movement parry for attention.


We tend toward disintegration like grace
notes, half-apparent, ash becoming

air. Slow loss we can't prevent is the hardest
to grieve. The wedding band wrought to bone

smoothness, colours we chose and can't quite remember
how they gleamed before being

bleached in the living room sunlight. Bluebottle flies
drone as if they've forgotten the words.

One is caught between glass panes.
The small struggle their way into seeing, and we'd

help, if we could. If only the heart had
antennae. If only the heart had antennae to tap

out the way to the safest places, the ones
run by the slowest clocks. Alongside sowbugs

curling in the damp beneath the woodpile.
The chopping block, a blossom of scars.

Below my knee, a thin white stroke
waving like lightning stays numb when touched.

If only tenderness was always so exquisitely roofed
under thickened skin. If only there was room enough to tuck

away our losses instead of having them fall like calendar
days in movies, aspen leaves fluttering at our feet.


Wow.  What we, as readers, can appreciate is that time can slow down — these poems create patience and in those contemplative moments — there is both suspense and tension.

Not to worry, it is framed with the certainty that Cadeau will bring it home.

Reading ahead to see how it ends

Shoved in kitchen cupboards jars of
dim brine, buttons, and tea leaves
wait—heavy cocoons dreaming ways out.
This witch doesn't keep lures like
apples, candy, a penny too light
for the wish it promises. Back

at home, the future reflects back
in bowls, spoons, the sleekness of
clockfaces. In the lake, tucked light
as a straw, she floats, leaves
spasming above her, face-up and
trying not to read ahead, out

herself. Clouds bloom, dye seeping out
in laundry water. Against her back,
tangling her legs is something like
what she imagines intuition's made of:
sedge and rushes, bass weed leaves
distorted by the surface, their light

feline sweep, fur against calf. Light
pods sway, ready to break out,
sinuous. She's drawn to what leaves
nothing behind: lilies can't go back
once they explode—fragrant stars of
skies spilled, a wild language, like

small knots netting the throat, like
after-effects of blindfolded kisses or light
warning strokes across the soles of
her feet as they slip out
from under her. She thinks back
to how the old story leaves

off, the mewling woman Gretel leaves
blackening in the oven becoming like
fingerprints on glass, oily creosote, back
to seeing her own death: firelight,
the skin of rope stretching out,
skewed pine shadows, the mother-of-

pearl dusk. The waiting crowd shifts,
a heap of stones settling into
relief, everything in its place.


This is Cadeau's second book of poems, she published What You Used To Wear with Goose Lane in 2004.  With any luck there won't be quite as long a wait until her next book.  Poems this fine are poems worth reading, and then some.

Other people

Other people's children are best taken with their snarly
hair and flouncing thank-yous and grimy hands jammed in
grimy pockets. Give a half smile for a round of peekaboo, the
story about what happened next with grandma, her cheeks 
like soggy tea bags, and how many words rhyme with blue.
If you too have children, your very own set of other people,
take other other people's children gladly into your home on
school vacation days, the summer months when you start
to run out of ideas. They'll dig holes, chase each other, eat
savagely. And if you're raising other people's people, not
blood relations, all the same rules apply. Buck against the 
old joke that mothers smother and tame a swatch of space for
you alone: they may have been raised by wolves after all, and
how are you to know.


Charmaine Cadeau reads from Placeholder (Brick Books)

Charmaine Cadeau was born in Toronto, Ontario, she now lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she teaches and works as an editor.  She holds a PhD in literature and writing.

"The poetry in Placeholder is intriguing in the materiality and intensity of its language. But one wants to slow read to relish the lush assemblage and careful juxtapositions and collisions of syllables, sounds, images. These poems/placeholders invite us to dawdle the 'whole while' and ponder the ordered melange of this poetic curiosity shop."
     —Fred Wah

"I praise these poems for their assured and complex music, but also for offering their assured and complex music. but also for offering a rich logopoeia, combining into a dance of thought, a meditative passacaglia joyfully crossing the street in a mirror dance of comparisons where the seams/seems of the poem's 'as if' redouble in another 'as if' revealing the real behind the mirror."
     —Pierre Joris


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